War is an incredibly horrific thing to experience. It is tragically common how often soldiers head into battle and come out the other side a radically different person than they once were. We’ve seen it time and time again on the big screen, from The Deer Hunter to Born of the Fourth of July, and this weekend we’ll be able to see Casey Affleck confront those kinds of horrific demons in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace.
In the film Affleck stars as Rodney Baze Jr., a young man and soldier living in Pennsylvania with his ailing father and brother, Russell (Christian Bale). Over the course of the movie we see him get sent back into the Iraq War multiple times, causing a deep change in him mentally. His only outlet his competing in illegal underground boxing matches – a profession that leads him down a deep, dark path.
I recently got the chance to sit down one-on-one with the actor at a press day for Out of the Furnace and talked with him all about his new role. Check out our conversation below in which he talks about his attraction to complicated characters, playing with post-traumatic stress disorder, and, as a bonus, what it’s been like working with Christopher Nolan on the upcoming Interstellar.
It may just be looking at your films this year, but with your work in movies like Gone Baby, Gone and Assassination of Jesse James and Killer Inside, I’m curious if you think that you’re drawn to darker material.
You know, that’s funny because I can see that if I look back at all of the movies I’ve done, but I’m not really. I’m drawn to, I guess, complicated characters, but I would love to do a complicated character in something that was light-hearted. That just hasn’t happened that way so far, but people definitely must have some impression of me. I don’t think it’s accurate, because I hate violence. I hate it. I don’t want to watch it in movies. I definitely hate watching it in like boxing, martial-arts fighting, so it’s definitely not representative of who I am, in a way. It’s just the movies I’ve wound up in.
What does draw you to those projects? Is it the characters?
It’s really just the characters, and I guess, you know, more often than not, on projects like that you’ll have, I don’t know, I feel like the directors who I really like are also drawn to those kinds of movies and you want to work with these certain directors and you like certain characters and they often end up being these darker movies.
And even just talking to Scott Cooper, he was saying how you’re kind of a hard sell, like it’s hard to get you to sign on for a project.
I guess I like to make sure that I’m making a, I guess so, I guess I can be picky. As long as I’ve made a good choice about what projects I’ll be a part of, then I feel safe making all kinds of mistakes, making bold choices, just letting myself go completely on set, because I know that I’ve made a good safe choice with who is guiding the whole ship. That said, I’ve also been in some very terrible movies and I’ve done movies just for money, because I was broke and you just have to just work. Guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
What do you look for in a relationship with a director? In taking on the part of Rodney, are you looking for in collaboration? Are you looking for a filmmaker who really knows exactly what he wants?
I like a director who has some sense of what they like, you know, and I guess I like when a director has a specific vision for what he wants, but is also willing, has the confidence to allow for other people’s input.
What were the kinds of conversations you were having with Scott about this character?
I would say they were sort of like, how would this character treat this person. How much is he going to show? How much of this life stays contained. You know, you have someone who of going through a lot of stuff that’s all secret. That’s the point of it. A lot of these vets come back and they can’t talk about certain things that they’ve done or seen, so then how does it manifest itself. What are the symptoms, so that it’s realistic and makes sense and it’s also clueing the audience in on some of this stuff, because you want them to see the interior life a little, you know.
Is this a case of post-traumatic stress disorder? Is that what we’re looking at here?
Yeah, I’d say so.
Is that something that you researched as well? How much prep time did you actually have to get into this role?
We had a few months of prep time. It was definitely something, that was the focus of the research, I would say, just trying to understand what he’s carrying as he comes back, and that was eye-opening. It really was. It was pretty astonishing what’s, the degree to which these guys are shaken and how hard it is to reintegrate into society.